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Disaster bill signed; city block grants await funding approval.

President George Bush signed into law a a record $11.1 billion disaster relief bill to aid victims of storms in communities in Florida, Louisiana, and Guam following approval by the Congress last week. The bill also includes up to $500 million in funding for new urban and rural block grant programs for cities and towns.

The new block grant funds are subject to final action and approval by President Bush as part of the pending Urban Aid bill, HR 11 (see related story on the tax bill).

House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) successfully negotiated a $2.5 billion, five year Enterprise Community Development Block Grant program with the White House and included it in the House version of the Urban Aid bill last summer. There is, as yet, no similar provision in the Senate version.

The money in the disaster assistance bill would pay for the first year installment for two programs: the Enterprise Community Block Grant Demonstration (ECBG) program and the National Public/Private Partnership (NPPP) program--if the House and Senate complete action on and agree to authorize the new block grant programs as part of an urban aid package before Congress adjourns.

The new programs would provide approximately $300 million in urban aid and $80 million in rural aid to communities designated as enterprise zones next year and for the following four years. It would provide up to $200 million for all communities under the partnership proposal for job training, community health, Head Start, and housing and community development initiatives. The bill designated the first year funding as an emergency in order to avoid offsetting cuts in other domestic programs going to cities.

The ECBG block grant assistance would permit cities and towns to increase funding in five major categories: crime and community policing, job training, education, health and nutrition, and housing and community development.

The disaster assistance package includes $6.3 billion in grants for disaster victims, rebuilding funds and other spending.

Congress made two changes in its final deliberations, agreeing not to restore funds for the rebuilding of Homestead Air Force Base as promised by President Bush and agreeing to drop a provision that would have prevented the Labor Department from enforcing "helper" regulations allowing contractors to pay non-skilled workers less than the David-Bacon prevailing wage.

Many members of Congress, noting that Homestead ranked high on the list of likely base closures, asked why that base should be rebuilt and reopened when so many bases in other cities and towns were bing closed. In resolving the issue, Congress provided just enough money to clean up the base and restore the airfield, deferring the final decision on reopening the base to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
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Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Sep 28, 1992
Previous Article:Bentsen urges colleagues not to burden urban aid with amendments.
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